Meditation - Not your usual guide
Mediation for those who think differently
Whenever you are dealing with stress, emotional turmoil, or you seek a deeper connection to the universe, or want to walk a more spiritual path, without failure, someone will advise you strongly to meditate.
“Set aside 20 minutes a day, twice a day even, you only need to empty your mind, you need to sit straight, no you can’t use headphones…”
Those people probably mean well. It may even have changed their life, and there is no denying how meditation can improve our wellbeing.
The positive effects of meditation
- Reduces stress
- Reduces negative emotions
- Increase of self-awareness
- Increase of creativity and imagination
- Increase of focus
- Increase patience and kindness
- Better control over anxiety
- Improves sleep
These are only a few of the benefits you can experience when meditation becomes a part of your daily routine. But it may not be beneficial for everyone.
Some people are simply wired differently. For example, neurodivergent people may struggle to get into a mindfulness practice. Also, people with mental illness or chronic disease might find it difficult to incorporate a rigid practice into their daily lives.
If you deal with any of these challenges, you might struggle to bring up the energy to add another task to your to do list.
Let’s be honest here for a moment. We all want to improve our mental health, or our emotional well-being. But if you follow every good advice on how to improve your life, I don’t know if you will ever have the time to work or take care of your family. It’s always only 20 minutes of meditation, 30 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of journaling, take 30 minutes every day to read, set aside time to cook everything from scratch, no matter if it takes an hour every day, go for a walk every day at least for 30 minutes. And this list is by no means exhaustive and we are already over 3 hours in.
So I guess we need a better system of what we can actually include in our mindfulness practice.
If you have a processing difference like autism or ADHD, it can be very difficult for you to focus your mind. The rapid fire of thoughts, sensory issues, or difficulties with sitting still can represent an unsurmountable challenge if forced into the traditional way of meditation.
The good news is, there are many ways to practice mindfulness and you can choose what is right for you. You don’t have to follow rigid rules. Make it as accessible for yourself as possible. First, let us explore a few options of meditation that may or may not be a good fit for you.
Four types of well-known meditations
- Mindfulness meditation
This is the most popular one, and perhaps for many a struggle. In this type of meditation, you focus on your breath and observe your thoughts passing by. A person with ADHD probably doesn’t find this relaxing and it can heighten the stress levels. Mostly, it is also required to sit still and keep your spine upright. If you have any physical struggles, this presents its own challenges as well.
- Mantra Meditation
This type of meditation uses a repetitive sound to clear your mind from the monkey chatter. It can be a word or a phrase, however keeps it short and simple. The most known mantra would be Om. You could also use Ho’oponopono, pronounced ho-oh-pono-pono. It is an ancient Hawaiian Mantra. The meaning would be: I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.
Or you come up with something else. Simple phrases like I am present, I am grateful, Nature is my bliss, this is the perfect moment, I am safe, I am spirit… I am, might do the trick for you.
This kind of meditation keeps your mind occupied and you might be able to slow down the rapid thoughts firing through your mind. It is also great if you like repetition or simply enjoy the vibration of sound running through your body.
- Loving-kindness meditation
This meditation is used to strengthen compassion, kindness, and acceptance towards ourselves and others. We might hold on to anger and resentment, and this mediation can help to cultivate more understanding and aid in letting go of these feelings.
You open up to receive loving kindness, think of someone who truly has your back and appreciates you for who you are (let’s just include pets here as well, they are after all the better people), then you imagine them smiling at you and truly wishing you happiness.
Then you bring to mind someone that you want to send some kindness to yourself (again, include your pets if you wish). Radiate out the warm feeling you experienced before by receiving kindness.
- Guided journeys
For someone who struggles to focus and is better not left alone with their thoughts, a guided journey might be helpful. Often in these kinds of meditations you are being told a story, or at least a voice guides you through different imageries. It helps those who cope better with being instructed in the moment and may even enjoy a bit of background music.
For all meditations, it is important to note that you can modify them to your needs. If sitting still is not available to you, you can also lie down, or walk around. You can even meditate while gardening. Pulling weeds, for example, will bring you into a meditative state, whether you like it or not. If you are sensitive to noise and it distracts you easily, go ahead and wear headphones. You are not less spiritual, or less good at meditation because you use some tools. Perhaps even background music distracts you, so you might want to try binaural beats only. I find binaural beats really helpful for my own practice, as music, if I enjoy it too much, can definitely distract me.
If you need to fidget, grab yourself a fidget toy, or whatever is at hand, and use it as a mindfulness tool. Pay attention to how the surface feels like, how it changes temperature the longer it is in your hand. Or use prayer beads if that’s your thing. Surround yourself with the softest pillows and blanket if you enjoy that sensory input. Dim the lights, use smells, grab your pet and let them linger in your lap, if that helps you to relax. Don’t ever think you’re doing it wrong, you are only doing it your way.
One of the issues that some people struggle with is that they keep falling asleep. Well, congratulations! At least you are very relaxed and that is already a good start. However, and I say this with love, sleeping isn’t a mindfulness practice. If this only happens a couple of times, you don’t need to worry. We all have fallen asleep during meditation at one point or another, but if that is a reoccurring problem, you might have to consider your sleeping patterns. Falling asleep like this usually indicates that you don’t get enough of it during the night. Sleep is so important to our mental health, and our well-being, perhaps set your priorities to get a good night’s sleep.
Also, very importantly, don’t try to meditate! It only adds pressure that really doesn’t need to be there. The more you want to force it, the more you will probably resist. Just let it happen. Walk, sit, lie down for only a minute or two. Do a little breathing exercise like breathing in and count to 5 and exhale and count to 7. Do this 3 to 5 times, and voilà, you meditated.
Perhaps you are also going through some trauma. You might have once been able to meditate, but now you feel you can’t anymore. Trauma and meditation don’t always work together, especially if you experience symptoms of PTSD. Bessel van der Kolk, author of the New York Times bestseller The Body Keeps The Score, has noted that due to the fact that those with PTSD don’t experience their trauma as something in the past but rather as something they are experiencing in the present, meditation may not only be impossible but harmful. Patients can become emotionally deregulated, experience flashbacks, dissociate, have increased nightmares, or even develop psychosis.
So forcing yourself into meditation might not be right for you yet. You might need to seek out other forms of therapy to deal with your trauma, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice mindfulness altogether.
We had a look at different types of meditation, and if none of this works for you, because of trauma brain, your neurodivergence or any other differences or challenges, there are still other mindfulness exercises you can try out for yourself.
Eight Mindfulness Practices
Journaling will always be one of the first ones to come up, but you can modify it to your own needs. It doesn’t always mean you have to sit for half an hour hovering over your journal and write down your feelings.
Neurodivergent people might struggle with writing altogether, or some might have difficulties in identifying their emotions. You can instead doodle in your journal, use your sticker collection, draw something in only one color that day, or copy quotes that you picked up somewhere. Nobody has to see your journal, so go nuts.
Grounding is so essential to every practice and one often overlooked. Especially in the spiritual community, grounding exercise will come with a form of visualization - Imagine roots growing out your feet, they are reaching deep into the earth and you draw the energy up. A great exercise for in between, but perhaps not available for you now. So let’s come up with something else. Another exercise could be naming the things around you that you see, the things you can hear, smell, touch, taste. Especially for when you experience any form of distress, this little exercise can bring you right back to the present moment.
Move your body, but mindfully. Feel the muscles involved, every twist and turn. You can slowly turn your wrists in and out, find a breathing pattern that works with it. Breathe in and move your arms overhead, breathe out, and move your arms down again. Simple movements followed by breath, wait I think this is Yoga, so yes, try easy to follow Yoga exercises.
Yes, reading can help for some, not all of course. But if this is available to you, read something you truly enjoy. Consider reading print, as we are constantly glued to our screens, anyway. It’s a nice change. Feel the paper, smell it even, and notice the change of light on the page. Notice the language, different words, and look them up. Pay attention to the rhythm of a sentence, the flow of paragraphs. When your mind wanders, the page is there for you to bring you back to the present moment.
- Play with your pet
In our everyday life, we might not forget to do the essentials for them, take them out for a walk, feed them, clean the toilets, but to be fully present while we cuddle with them or play with them is not a given. It might take some effort as we often just pat them while still looking something up quickly. So take time to play with them, be fully present for them. Let your fingers run through their fur, dig your nose into as well, crawl over the floor with them, listen to their breathing and their heartbeat. Believe me, those are precious moments.
- Play an instrument
Even if you’re not a musician or never have touched an instrument before, you can still use an instrument for your benefit. Perhaps you like the sound of a hang drum, the repetitive patterns, the calming sound. Well, a hang drum can be quite an investment, but perhaps consider a steel drum. There are some affordable ones out there and they are easy to learn. If you choose a steel tongue drum with a pentatonic scale, you can play it intuitively and it will sound good.
Maybe you consider getting a singing bowl. For many, this sound can be quite calming, and you really don’t have to learn anything to use it. Otherwise, look into rattles or rainmakers, whatever tickles your fancy. The repetitive patterns can bring calmness to many and regulate their nervous system.
- Prayer & Intention
Prayer can often be misunderstood or can cause a bad reaction for someone who has a difficult past with religion. But prayer is and can be a wonderful mindfulness practice that doesn’t take away much of your time.
You don’t need to pray to a deity, a prayer can simply be setting an intention for the day.
I give you an example:
May my heart be gentle,
My mind still and open,
My spirit unshackled,
My awareness keen,
My conscience clear,
My nature giving,
May I be a healing energy,
May I be of benefit to all,
May my life enrich others,
May I know what matters,
And may I live in harmony with nature.
This is only one example and you can find many inspirations on Pinterest, for example. It will only take a minute or two, and at the same time, you are setting an intention for your day.
Setting intentions can also be done in meditation. If you can manage to focus for a few minutes and do your breathwork, you can also add an intention setting. For example, I intend to find peace, I intend to forgive myself, I intend to be aware of my emotions.
- Spellwork and Ritual
Intention setting, prayer, & spellwork go hand in hand, if you ask me. Let me give you a basic example. Add to your needs or leave the things that you deem unnecessary.
Set up your altar (or your desk, or dining table). This doesn’t have to be elaborate. Simply light a candle, use an incense stick, draw a card from your oracle deck with a message that resonates with what you want to manifest.
Let’s say I want to manifest more vitality and energy for myself. I take the card Salu from the Faery Forest Oracle. I also want to include the color green for health and growth. This can be a candle, a healthy plant, your dog after they rolled around in the freshly mowed grass.
If you don’t have Oracle cards, you can also use a drawing of what you want to achieve, or write a word on a piece of paper.
Now be in the present and focus on your chosen representation. Say a prayer, an affirmation, a spell that rhymes, chant a song, and repeat it as long as you can focus on it.
Bright flame of Brigid,
Forest green of Cernunnos,
May my vitality peak today
And Energize me in my work and play
Fidgety fingers? I get it. What I like to do is weave the message in. What that means is that I will imitate weaving movements with my fingers, draw the energy from the card (or other representation) and weave into my heart chakra.
Again, as I said, you can expand on this little ritual as much as you want, but in its basics, it is nothing but intention setting. Some people like more whistles and bells than others, and it can help to keep the mind more focused.
Mindfulness practices can be very beneficial and have a positive effect on many areas of your life. Don’t ever be afraid to modify them to your needs and don’t let anybody tell you, you’re doing it wrong. They are only beneficial if you are actually doing them, therefore they must be tailored to your needs.
I hope I could give you some ideas, and that you can mix them up, so it won’t become boring or too one sided.
I hope your world is kind